Monday, November 26, 2012

Make mine a Minervois

The Minervois is an appellation that I just adore.  It’s absolutely wild and gorgeous, and the best wines showcase this terroir.  The better examples have a certain spiciness and minerality that you don’t always find in the region.  However, too many are jammy and flabby or are trying to respond to what they think are “market tastes”.  And, granted, it is HOT around these parts.

So when I met Anne-Marie Coustal and her husband Roland (isn’t that a cool name too?) at a local tasting held in an ancient abbey, I found myself going back several times to their stand.  Their wines were alive and had a certain nervositĂ© (a nervous energy), as they say in French.  Turns out there’s a reason why: they are hand-making wine using old-fashioned traditional methods on some very, very rough and uneven soils.

 The Coustals took over the winery from Anne-Marie’s parents in 2001, just before her father, Georges, the winery’s namesake, passed.  They farm 12 hectares (29.65 acres) in small, stony plots between Tourouzelle and Castelnau d’Aude.  Their vines, aged between 10 and 60 years old, are densely planted (4500-5500/ha) in some wild terrain, surrounded by guarrigue and woodland.  Sustainable agriculture while leaning organic is the preferred practice in their rocky plots, and everything is manually harvested with berry triage to ensure the quality and health of the grapes.  The temperature-controlled fermentation is slow, varying between 22 and 35 days depending on the cuvee and the vintage.  Unfiltered, unfined, their AOC wines are gorgeous, spicy, well-balanced, medium- bodied reds from Syrah, Grenache, Carignan , and Mourvèdre.  This is a true family affair, one to pay attention to.

The first wine to arrive, their Et Cetera (see label at top- 40% Grenache, 40% Carignan, 20% Syrah) is a bright yet dark juicy-fruited wine with some red berry notes dancing on a medium-bodied frame with a core of minerality, that ends in a long, succulent finish.  A stunner at this price point, that’s for certain.

It's a real honor to be importing these wines.  My customers quickly recognized their quality, and so they've just gone off to Chicago and New Orleans, as well as NY and NJ, so we might be on to something here.  Seeing that makes me giddy, and not just for the business side.  I love finding little gems like this.  If you try this wine, please let me know what you think.

And thanks for your support!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Introducing Terre du Sol Wines

Pretty label, right?

If you've been reading this blog (and I mean, who hasn't, right?), you know I don't pick up new wines that often.  Heck, after 4 years of doing this, I only have 14 French wineries and 1 Spanish winery.  Of course, things come and go, but I'm old-school and believe in cultivating long-term relationships with my growers.  This, to me, is the best way to maintain and guarantee high quality.

So when I add a new winery, it's cause for celebration.  Well, this year, we've added 2 new ones, a Minervois that I'll talk about in another blog posting (this also gives me the incentive to write another post) and a lovely light-bodied wine from the edge of the Mediterranean.  So, first, let's talk about Terre du Sol, from the Languedoc-Roussillon.

I don't usually go in for wines like this, but I was shocked at the quality and the price points involved.  For legal reasons, I can't identify the parties involved, but one of our best winemakers has been consulting for other wineries for years.  When one of their clients made something special, my phone rang and I was told to head over to the winery post-haste.  I jumped and grabbed the first train heading south out of Montpellier.  I arrived to find a table full of samples awaiting me…

After a long morning of tasting (woe is me, right?), I was convinced we’d found something truly special here: some excellent wines at excellent prices.  They were well-made, with beautiful fruit and  minerality, really nicely balanced.  And, frankly, the label was very pretty (I know, I know, but we all know that marketing counts a lot).

Seriously, no one should ever be disappointed when they open a bottle at these prices.  I mean, there has to be a way for quality to co-exist with value in this type of wine.  And so with our winemaker’s experience and advice, there’s a certainty of excellence. 

“Terre du Sol” means Land of the Sun in the local dialect.  Grapes for these wines are grown on stony soils at the edge of the Mediterranean and bask in the sun year-round.  Delicious and easy to drink, they follow my philosophy of trusting small family winemakers to make affordably delicious wines.  They really are like sunshine in your glass (sorry for being corny but it's true!).

I am starting with Le Roujal, a blend of unoaked Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and a drop of Merlot that is full of bright but dark fruits, with a medium body, some meaty notes, and a mid-length finish.  Talk about the perfect Fall/Winter wine, this just screams sunshine and a light mood, something in need during the dark cold months ahead of us.

So look for this label in your local fine wine establishment, the cases are hitting the streets just now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vinotas Selections in the News!

Well, sort of.

Disclaimer: utterly shameless self-promotional plugging ahead, be warned.

As you can imagine, it always makes me happy to see my hard work rewarded, and not just by sales (though of course that's the best, I'll admit).  I love seeing the smiling face of someone discovering one of our wines and realizing that those from small growers have a particular character, a soul, a certain je ne sais quoi to them.  But I also love getting some recognition in the press (hey, I'm only human, after all).

So it was a pleasure to chat with Simone Gubar from the Columbia Business School alumni magazine, who was doing a lovely article on people following their passions.  Wine being a passion of mine, as you might know by now.  We chatted a bit on the phone, and what came out was a very nice article detailing my efforts in trying to find and preserve small family wineries.

You can read it here:

What do you think?